NEWS: THE ARGUS - Tuesday, November 30, 1999



One man's fight to have historic power building recognised


    The Argus 30 November 1999




Nelson has been resolute for years that his office, a historic power generator which used to supply a whole town, should be listed and made into a museum, but he has received little support. But now English Heritage has backed the claim.



by JOE LEPPER  joe.lepper@argus-btn.co.uk


G e n e r a t i n g   i n t e r e s t


TO LOOK at Nelson's ramshackle and rundown office you would never guess it was once the most important building in town.  The Inventor, from Herstmonceux, near Hailsham, has been using the office to design and build his creations for the past 18 years.  

But in 1998 he made a startling discovery - beneath its rusty corrugated tin exterior hides one of Britain's earliest and last remaining electric power houses.  Back in the Victorian era the building was the heart of the town, powering the street lighting and homes for miles around.   Since the discovery he has fought to gain the recognition the building deserves as a historic monument.  

He has had bids for listed status turned down, as well as unsuccessful planning applications to make it an education center as many did not believe its past.  But now, at last, his dream to renovate his historic office looks set to come true.  

He has had its status confirmed by English Heritage, which added it to its Monument Protection Programme for protected buildings.  And local councillors have now decided to rethink their decision on converting the property.  Nelson, 44, who also lives in Herstmonceux, said: "it's been a struggle to get recognition but it looks like that has now happened.






"I have now also had it confirmed that this is the only remaining generator that used to power a whole village."  Built in 1888, the building called the Old Steam House, was developed by a wealthy landowner in the village called Baron de Romer for his own use.  It was bought by a local electricity company during the Edwardian era and remained in use until the 1930s, when the national grid took over.

Nelson said: "Then the technology was all so early and lights used to flicker in time with the engine.  I try and imagine what that must have been like for the people then."  For Nelson the discovery is also of great importance as he mainly designs and builds electrical creations

At the side of one of Britain's electrical masterpieces lies one of the country's latest, as Nelson is busy building what he hopes will be the worlds fastest electric car.  He hopes the 22ft long, 400 horse-power contraption will reach speeds of more than 350mph and is considering testing it as early as March.  Members of Wealden District Council planning committee plan to make a decision on the future of the building next month.




A NOTE FROM OUR EDITOR:  We accept it is difficult for reporters writing articles of such a complex nature to capture every detail.  In the above article the council concerned issued enforcement notices between 1982 and 1986, the latter appealed to the Secretary of State.  The present 'no mans land' planning blight situation, is preventing conservation works, to include removing the unsightly tin cladding from the original timbers.  The first planning application was made in 1988, the last in 1999 (not appealed).  On each of these occasions Wealden District Council ignored the history attaching to the building, despite the newspaper report above and umpteen letters and reports from archaeologists.  The last appeal to the Secretary of State in 1997 elicited a decision letter also denying the history, which decision was based on the council's expert witness Ms Chezel Bird's testimony.  The Secretary of State now know she was wrong - worse still, it appears the council had the origins of the building on file as early as 1983, but that this information was not put before the Secretary of State, but say they cannot undo their decision, neither did the local authority or the Secretary of State consult English Heritage, despite PPG16 or Circular 22 of 1980.


The council failed to make a decision, but set about trying to bankrupt their intended victim, in what we presume was some kind of attempt to whitewash their scurrilous handling of this matter. 





Herstmonceux Electricity Generating Works Circa. 1900 - 1936   Links:



Introduction  |  Instructions  |  ISBN  |  Batteries  |  Boiler Room   |  Floor Plan  |  Ron Saunders


Industrial Revolution  |   Lime Park  |  Machinery  |  Map  |  Power House  |  Argus 1999


Public Supply  |  Roof Construction  |  Rural SupplySussex Express 1913  |  Conclusion


Archaeology South East   |   East Sussex CC  |  English HeritageSIAS  |  Sx Exp 1999


Memories of Herstmonceux by Margaret Pollard






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